Tapering is fun, it’s fantastic and above all its about feeling fast fast fast.

It is the time when you feel light, loose and long in the water as your body regenerates and recharges after weeks of hard work.

And above all tapering is one thing – one simple thing that everyone already has in their possession but it is one thing most people use very often….common sense.

Think about it this way.

Imagine you were telling someone – someone who knew nothing about swimming, “I have been training for months and months for a big Meet coming up in two weeks”.

And then you told them, “And for the next two weeks I am going to change lots of things, get little or no rest, stress out a lot and worry about things that may not even happen, eat strange foods that I have never eaten before, buy some different swimsuits to wear on the day without trialling them and I will not spend anytime practicing exactly what I want to do at the Meet”.

They would probably tell you, “Well good luck with all that and here’s the number of a good psychiatrist!”

So how do you have a tip top taper?

Here’s twenty tips to turn tapering into triumph:


  1. Try it before you use it! It is really tempting to buy a new suit or a new pair of goggles or some new sporting supplements to give you a special something extra for the big Meet. But time and time again, swimmers who have worked hard and trained hard for a Meet blow it all by reaching for a miracle over the counter super swimming supplement. Find out what works for you and keep doing it; 
  2. Don’t add anything new. Another taper trap is to add more work in the belief that if some training is good, then more will work even better. Taper is the time for the four Rs – Rest, Regenerate, Recover and Race not the four Ms – More – More – More – More;
  3. Work fast, work smart. Tip three is an important one. Taper is the time for speed: training fast to race fast. Once you start tapering the golden rules are: Decrease training volume but maintain training frequency and training intensity or if you like train fast, train often but train less;
  4. No sleep-ins. Lots of swimmers (and their parents) fall for this one. Swimmers will often try to scam a few mornings off during taper by telling their coach they need the rest to swim at their best. Some swimmers – you know who you are – will even get their parents to push the coach for some morning sleep ins. Again the golden rules are….train fast, train often, train less;
  5. New suit – old suit. It feels great to race in a nice new, fast suit but a new suit only works if you have done all you can do in training to make it go fast. A slow driver in a Ferrari is still a slow driver;
  6. It’s all mental. Racing is 90% mental. So practice “mental tapering” as well as physical tapering. During your taper take time to relax, to do things you enjoy, get plenty of sleep, read a book, watch some TV and taper your mind as well as your body;
  7. Dives and starts. During taper – more than any other time – every dive is a race dive – every start is a race start…..every dive is a race dive – every start is a race start……..;
  8. Turns. And you guessed it…every turn is a race turn;
  9. Underwater practice. To go fast above the water, practice going fast under the water. Practice the three big kicks of underwater speed at every opportunity during taper: Kicking fast under water in streamline, kicking fast to the surface and kicking explosively to the surface for the breakout stroke;
  10. Easy speed. A feature of a great taper is easy speed – being able to move fast with little effort. “Easy-speed” comes as your body recovers and regenerates as the training load decreases. Enjoy this feeling – it is what all the training is about;
  11. Practice several warm ups. Practice your ideal pre race warm up several times during the taper. Be very comfortable with it – know it backwards and try to rehearse it in conditions which are as close as possible to actual race conditions. And practice a few “what-if” warm ups. “What if we get to the practice pool late and I only get five minutes to warm up” or “What if for some reason I can’t do a pool warm up and have to warm up on dry land?”: plans and back-up plans and back-up plans for back-up plans;
  12. Practice several swim downs. And again….”what if they change the race schedule at the last minute and I don’t get a chance to do a full swim down?”. Don’t make the mistake of practicing for a perfect day – be prepared to deal with whatever can (and will) go wrong;
  13. Fast Fuel. Eat “fast” foods – no, not the kind you usually eat. Plenty of fresh fruit, salads, vegetables and quality, nutritious, healthy food. You can’t put low performance fuel in a high performance machine and hope it will race fast;
  14. Swimming bag check list. Make a check list of everything you will need on race day – goggles, cap, suit and back up suit, food, drink, something to read, two towels….write it down, tick it off as you pack your bag and leave nothing to chance;
  15. Spares of everything. Ever had a pair goggles break on race day? Ever lost a suit? Your swim bag should be like Noah’s Arc…everything in two by two;
  16. Don’t do anything dumb…Taper is not the time to take up bungee jumping, sky-diving or professional stunt work;
  17. Relax. Take it easy. You’ve worked hard. You deserve to relax;
  18. Recover. Help your body to help you by committing to a daily recovery schedule. Eat good foods. Drink plenty of water. Do some light stretching and most importantly……….;
  19. Sleep. Sleep is the most under-rated but most important recovery tool at your disposal. extra hour  of sleep each night means an extra night’s sleep each week. If you have a three week taper, then by going to bed an hour earlier each night, you get three extra nights sleep to recover and be ready to race like you have never raced before;
  20. Practise everything that can be practised. Perfect practice = perfect performance. As the Meet gets closer, make every aspect of your practice as perfect as the performance you want on race day.

It’s all mental – it really is.

Believe. Believe. Believe. It all starts with what you believe. Think fast, train hard, taper smart, race brilliantly!

The performance equation…..looks something like this:

A great training season plus a consistently professional attitude in and out of the pool plus a well designed and executed taper = Success.

It all adds up!

Wayne Goldsmith